By Dennis Miller
The defending champion and the winner of the 2-year-old stake last year will face each other Saturday in the running of the Oak Tree Sprint at the Alameda County Fair horse racing meeting in Pleasanton.
Last year Anyportinastorm went wire to wire as the overwhelming favorite to take the Oak Tree. Five days later Top Harbor came from well off the pace to win the Everett Nevin, a 2-year-old stake that sees some of the top babies in Northern California.
Saturday the two will be joined by five other runners in what will be the top stake race of the meet.
The race is the 7th on Pleasanton’s Saturday card with post time scheduled for 5:45 p.m.
The field with an analysis of each horse in post-position order, with trainer, jockey, and morning line.
Quiet Charm (Monty Meier trainer, Armando Ayuso, 3/1): Had a horrific debut effort in December at the Los Alamitos Race Course, finishing last in a field of nine, beaten 32-lengths. Since then, the horse was shipped north and had been good, winning both starts – the first a maiden race, and the second, an allowance race. Both were wire-to-wire wins, but before getting too excited, know this is a very ambitious placement, against a pair of very fast, stakes placed runners. This horse will be no where close to 3-1.
Anyportinastorm (Peter Miller, Evin Roman, 8/5): The defending champion and well deserving of being the favorite here again. He began his 2021 campaign with a win in the Lost in the Fog at Golden Gate Fields, then stretched out a mile in the All American. This horse is 7-for-10 at the six furlong distance and 4-of-8 on the dirt. A major player to defend his title. No need to spend a lot of time talking up this runner.
Darnquick (Isidro Tamayo, William Antongeorgi, 7/2): The bottom line with this runner is, if you are not winning smaller stakes at Turf Paradise, you are not going to step in against a tougher field and beat some speedsters from California. Strung together some nice races at Gold Gate in the optional claiming ranks, but that is where he belongs – not 7/2 here.
Habobanero (Reina Gonzalez, Santos Rivera, 20/1): I liked this horse last weekend in an allowance race, and he was right there with Sadie’s Bluegrass throughout the race, but he couldn’t get it done there and he won’t here either. Catch him perhaps the last weekend here back at an allowance level and he will be a good choice.
Top Harbor (Tim McCanna, Irving Orozco, 10/1): There is speed, speed, and speed here, so it does open the door for someone coming from off the pace and this may be that one. Proven to like the track as he came from well back to win the Everett Nevin last year (the 2-year-old stake). Went to the shelf after the Nevin last year for almost 10 months and has come back for three starts this year. He was second in an optional claimer in the return, then came back with a third in a stake at GGF. The last start he was fifth in the Silkey Sullivan, also at GGF, but that race was on the turf, so I will toss it. The faster the front end runners go, the better chances here.
Law Abiden Citizen (Mark Glatt, Frank Alvarado, 5/1): Don’t expect more than 3-2 on this horse and perhaps less. There is no chance you get 5-1 for the SoCal monster. He has run in six graded stakes races, including his last three starts. He closed 2020 with a third in the Grade I Bing Crosby, then was third in the Grade II Pat O’Brien. He started this year with a fourth in the Grade III Daytona on the turf at Santa Anita. Now the 7-year-old with career earnings of over $500,000 is set to bring his high-end speed to Pleasanton. Wuld be 1/9 if Anyportinastorm wasn’t entered.
Bettor Trip Nick (Quinn Howey, Kyle Frey, 10/1): Another legitimate local horse that could shock with the perfect trip. Did get spanked when he tried to out-pace Anyportinastorm in the Lost in the Fog, finishing third. If he can tuck in right behind the front runners and settle down in the middle of the track, he might have first run when they turn for home. Needs a lot to go right, but if you are looking for a value play, this is another to look at.
Betting options: There will be no value betting on Anyportinastorm or Law Abiden Citizen either on the win or the exacta. That leaves you with determining what is your goal here. Do you want to cash a ticket no matter how low your odds, or do you want to take a chance no matter how unlikely the chances are in making it work? I think the best value play may be Top Harbor. Because the top two runners should be 2-1 or less, you might get the lone closer at 8-1 or above. He showed last year he could come from the back on a speed favoring track. There is no doubt it is risky with the power of the front end speed, but you don’t have to drop too much coin for a nice possible return.